I once made the comment that it appears that anime companies will do a show on anything. Or so it seems. What initially appears to be an anime on shogi (Japanese chess) turns out to be far more than expected, but that is what you learn with “3 gatsu no Lion” (“March Comes in Like a Lion”). I was worried initially, as it authored by the same person who did “Honey and Clover” and I found that a truly turgid drama. Plus, the art style and approach is like “Your Lie in April”, but I decided to stick with it. It has a lot going for it; it has a lot working against it. But, let’s get down to the board, as it were.
Rei Kiriyama (glasses to the right) is a 17-year-old professional shōgi player who lives by himself. He is estranged from his adoptive family and has scarcely any friends. (There is a joke with his name, as it also stands for ‘zero’, and that is what he has away from his shogi life). Among his acquaintances is a family which consists of a young woman, Akari Kawamoto (to the left) and her younger sisters, Hinata and Momo (that’s Hinata in the middle). As the story progresses, Rei deals with his attempts at maturation, both as a player and as a person. Plus, he finds himself developing his relationships with others, especially the Kawamoto sisters.
Now, since I know little of shogi, the game play is lost on me, so I can’t tell a good move from a great move from a bonehead play. Fortunately, we do not spend a great deal of time on that, except to see some key plays or get a truncated game. Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of time on his woebegotten life. He is severely depressed to the point that he could use some kind of intervention. A counselor, medication, even a dirty magazine; something to lift him from his doldrums. There is also an extraordinarily huge amount of tight close-up and the eye design is such that it annoys you to see it so often (like a dozen times during any particular episode).
It is crunch time for Kiriyama. He has plateaued. He is not progressing, which means he is regressing. It even appears that his talents and abilities in shogi are also catching the last bullet train out of Dodge and he has nothing else planned for the rest of his life. All the parts are there for him to succeed, but he is missing a critical enzyme or necessary chromosome to make it complete. We also see the shogi world that he inhabits and I felt that the more established people are just as messed up as he is, besets by the same caliber of problems that dog Kiriyama’s every step, except they have had it for forty or fifty years.
I also think that an intentional decision was made with the color palette. When we are with Kiriyama, it’s all drab and dull and flat and nearly monochrome, much like his emotional existence. When he encounters the rest of the outside world (especially the sisters), it explodes with a full range of hues (and potentially emotions) to help spark his life. Alas, Kiriyama just does not know what to do. The one thing he really needs, emotional development, is badly stunted, so he is always adrift in the world around him.
The episodes are broken up into twos and threes, done more to reveal an emotional aspect than for straight-ahead story-telling and it actually works better for the pacing of the show. One aspect I enjoyed was the cats. The sisters own three cats and they provide some needed and well-executed comic relief, especially when it is feeding time.
It took me some time to tumble to it (faster than the horse, but slower than the raccoon), but this is a very emotionally dependent show. Everyone actually wears their passion on their sleeve and we see the results when these feelings clash and crash, whether on the shogi board or over the dinner table. The drag is that Kiriyama does not appear to be growing emotionally. He is given all of these experiences, but they are (initially) not understood. They come across more like stepping in a deep puddle of water, as you do not know what to do with them or how to handle things, but you will learn from it.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Tired of the eyes and the endless close-ups of them)
Plot 7 (I have seen it before)
Pacing 7 (Does….it….drag)
Effectiveness 8 (Tells it story surprisingly well)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 7 (Good story but needed something more)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I challenge you!